Dubai: The Indian passport and visa service centres in the UAE, run by BLS International, have introduced an online appointment booking system, Gulf News can reveal.
Last week, Gulf News reported on how huge crowds were flouting social distancing norms at BLS International centres.
The website of the outsourced agency providing Indian visa and passport application processing services has now offered a provision to book appointments online.
Appointments can now be booked at 10 BLS centres across the UAE apart from two of its premium lounges which already had the online booking facility.
A spokesperson of the Indian Consulate in Dubai confirmed to Gulf News that the company started the online appointment booking system through its website on Monday, June 15.
“We will make a public announcement about the new appointment booking system soon,” he said.
However, a notice Gulf News found at the BLS Centre in Deira on Thursday said, “Applicants are only accepted through appointments booked on BLS website www.blsindiavisa-uae.com with effect from June 13.”
Walk-in slots for workers
The consulate official clarified that BLS centres would continue to offer some slots for walk-in customers using tokens to assist Indian workers who may not be able to book appointment online.
Till the situation becomes normal and people get used to the online system, he said walk-in slots will be provided for a certain number of people.
“Since there are several Indian workers who may not be able to book appointments online, we need to provide walk-in services also through token system. We hope the online booking system will help in reducing the rush and to ensure social-distancing rules.”
Last week, Gulf News had published two reports highlighting the crowd at BLS Centres flouting social distancing norms and the need for an online appointment booking system.
Many applicants, who are seeking passport renewal these days are those wishing to be repatriated due to the COVID-19 crisis and those waiting to stamp their new or renewed visas.
Unusually larger crowds had begun to throng the BLS Centres after weeks of the “Stay Home” period in the UAE as employees at the centres and mission struggled to clear the backlog.
The consulate official said only those who need to renew their passport for urgent reasons must come for renewal.
The diplomat reiterated that Indian expats need not rush to renew their passports thinking they might be fined.
“There are no fines for not renewing a passport. A passport can be renewed without any issues for up to three years. Once the three year period is over, we will require police verification from India,” he explained.
How to book an online appointment
Online appointments can be booked through the home page of BLS International UAE https://www.blsindiavisa-uae.com/
Bookings can be done by clicking on the blinking tab “Book Your Appointment”.
Another tab on the home page lets applicants book appointments with the BLS premium lounges, which charge Dh225 more.
The new appointment booking system has added the premium lounges in Dubai and Abu Dhabi along with 10 BLS Centres in the drop down menu of the centres in the UAE.
The webpage for online booking states that applicants are required to recheck all the details of passport (name, passport number) before confirming the appointment.
These details cannot be modified once saved and you may have to cancel the appointment if the details are incorrect, it is said among the conditions given for filling the appointment booking form.
In the case of newborn babies, passport number of either of the parents is mandatory.
Since the booking form was uploaded prior to Dubai removing the ban on mall entry to children below 12 and people above 60, the condition that “applicants below 12 years and above 60 years will not be allowed in BLS Al Khaleej Center as per UAE norms,” remained on the page on Thursday.
Applicants can book only one slot per passport. This will require a separate appointment for more than one applicant from a family or company wishing to visit a centre together for passport services.